When should kids be banned from the bathroom of the opposite gender?
by Jeanne Sager
The older my daughter gets, the more nervous I get sending her off to spend a day with her father. It's not him. It's the fact that, at some point, she will have to go to the bathroom. And then what?
Does a daddy take a little girl into the men's room? Does he try to find a one-seater ladies' room where he can feel confident standing outside the door? Or does he risk it, sending her into a big bathroom full of ladies without a single adult she knows as company.
This is not just a problem for mothers of little girls. A mom of a little boy recently got chewed out by women for taking her 5-year-old son into the women's locker room to change his clothes.
The mom reports that most of the other little boys in her son's swim class came with their fathers. But it was just her with her son, who she would help change in a stall in the women's locker room rather than send him into the men's room alone.
I don't blame her. My daughter is 8. She's old enough to change clothing herself and old enough to handle the various aspects of using a public toilet (layering toilet paper on the seat, wiping, flushing, etc.). When she and I go into a restroom together, I usually allow her to use her own stall while I use my own.
But I'm still wary of sending my child into a public bathroom alone, and so is my husband. If he's alone with her, he does what he has to do ... brings her into the men's room so she can pee.
The other options are just too scary.
Who knows who is in there and what they could do to her. Worse, they could do it relatively privately depending on the size of the stalls (I've seen some that are completely closed off like small rooms). Some even have windows or a second exit from which a child can be abducted.
Call me paranoid, but I prefer the term "cautious."
Only ... I don't know when to throw caution to the wind and just let her go. She's 8 now, should I have stopped years ago? Some moms would say yes. My brain tells me it's common sense for a mom to take her 5-year-old son into the women's locker room, and still ... people freak out.
But I know I'm not ready, and most moms I talked to agree.
And here's a fact that might make you feel better if you're a father taking your daughter into the men's room ... or you're a mom taking your son into the ladies' room: according to a chat I had with Dr. Charlotte Reznick, an associate professor of psychology at UCLA and author of The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety Into Joy and Success, kids' brains don't really become wired for handling tough situations on their own until around 12.
So how about you? When do you think kids should be banned from the bathroom of the opposite gender?